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Letters Week of May 4, 2011

May 4, 2011
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You're Letting a Piece of Jewish History Die 
I believe your cover story on the closing of the Stiffel Center ("Changes in the City Landscape," April 28) would have been better if it had pointed out that a piece of living Jewish history is going to end without anyone, including the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, discussing alternatives in a public fashion.

As far as para-transit taking Stiffel members to the Klein JCC in the Northeast, who are we kidding? It's an hour-plus ride on a good day, and para-transit doesn't have many good days. My mom, a former Stiffel member who lived on the 400 block of Wolf Street, perhaps five minutes away from the center, never got to Stiffel in less than 15 or 20 minutes.

Raising money for Stiffel's building and programs is not a sexy fundraising goal that lends itself to slogans or billboards. This is not the National Museum of American Jewish History, but it might be more meaningful because its demise affects real people in real ways. 
Murray Dubin 
Philadelphia

Teen Firefighters Should Be Inspiration to All 
Thank you for the April 28 article "Firefighting: An 'Unorthodox' Calling for These Two Teens" on Jewish young people participating as volunteer firefighters.

Your readers should know that all across Pennsylvania, our fire departments benefit and depend on juniors -- firefighter trainees under age 18.

But I have one correction: State regulations allow school-age firefighters to bring pagers to school and respond to incidents. Departments work closely with the school so as not to be disruptive.

All members are provided extensive training, and are under very careful supervision by company officers and senior members. Our company's training includes covering the cost for national certification.

Student participation is a great way to build life skills, gain confidence and grow community-minded individuals.

As for Jewish participation in this longtime Pennsylvania tradition, I belong to the Huntingdon Valley Fire Company. Our company, among others, is a wonderful example of America as a melting pot.

Included in the ranks are more than a dozen Jewish members from all walks of life, including two juniors (my son being one of them) who split their time among firefighting, Gratz College Jewish Community High School, Camp Ramah and USY.

I am hopeful that the great example set by Yossi Colman and Adi Cohen in your story will encourage others to stop into their local firehouses and ask for an application. 
Michael Balaban 
Huntingdon Valley Fire Company No. 1 
Montgomery County Station 8

Special-Needs Kids: There Are Places That Care 
As a parent of a special-needs teenager, your article "Learning-Enabled" in the education supplement ("The Next Step," April 14) was right on target in addressing Jewish special-needs education in the Philadelphia community.

I can empathize with the situation faced by those parents. I struggled with the inability to send my daughter Rachel to a local Jewish day school for her high school education.

At Politz Hebrew Academy, my daughter did benefit from the P'Tach program and the Judaic tutoring provided by Vickie Vogel. When we applied to Kohelet (then Stern) and Torah Academy high schools, we were told that they lacked the ability to meet my daughter's educational needs.

We found a solution in the wonderful special-needs department program led by Andrea Oxman at Gratz College Jewish Community High School in Melrose Park. Rachel attends JCHS in addition to her secular studies at Wyncote Academy.

She will be graduating from JCHS with Shalem Honor Society recognition in June, and her big day is due in no small part to the support and involvement of Ms. Oxman and other JCHS staff. Graduation day will be the most important event in my daughter's life.

Our family is grateful to JCHS and Politz for their ability to be accepting and inclusive. These programs find the ability to educate special-needs students despite the limited funds in this difficult economy. 
Bettina Dunn 
Philadelphia

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